Students who have the privilege of receiving an undergraduate education are given the choice of choosing their field of study at roughly 18 years of age. Depending on one’s influences, they may choose to go into a field that pays the highest, or has good job security, or matches up with their previous academic strengths. These were the criteria that led me to pursue a major in civil engineering; I knew almost nothing about the discipline except that I would be able to live comfortably middle class if I made it through Swanson’s program.
Before I made this choice however, I did have interests in the built environment, particularly pertaining to the creation of large-scale civic developments and infrastructure. I knew that this was the focus of civil engineering. What I did not know was that my true interest was in speculating on the social and environmental effects of the built environment. I discovered this during my sophomore year when I realized that all of my engineering classes were going to be about studying the physical reactions of steel or concrete under pressure. This led me to apply for a research position through MCSI, where I would be studying the energy and water usage of Pitt’s facilities, and developing a data network that would display this information to the public. This was of greater interest to me than upper-level material physics.
The MCSI program revealed to me a network of people and systems that are behind the upkeep of the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the labor and climate concerns associated with the institution. My father, a historian of working class literature, raised me with an understanding of concepts regarding the liberation of the working class and their intersectionalities with environmentalism. Art and creativity is another part of my history. My mother, a writer, calligrapher, and watercolorist, would give me art supplies to play with as a child. I grew up knowing how to draw and paint, and I went to a private high school on an art scholarship. This side of my upbringing is what drove me to do something creative with the information I received from MCSI.
This leads me to my current aspirations. At the moment, I am applying for the opportunity to pursue a graduate education in architecture. My reason for this is that I believe architecture has the power to creatively represent communal aspirations and desires by making the places where we practice our daily lives. This career move builds upon my engineering knowledge and generative thinking, and will allow me to explore ways of creating social and environmental impact rather than exhaustion on behalf of the built environment.
More specifically, I am interested in how low-tech material procurement networks can distribute wealth and ownership by de-centralizing means of construction. I am also drawn to the communal role of art institutions and how their physicalizations can influence their agency. I believe that whatever work I generate throughout my career, I will only be comfortable sharing it with the community whose needs I am addressing.